(aka, What Have I Gotten Myself Into?)
“This is Mr. Brown.”
“Mr. Brown, we see you’ve signed your son up for soccer this year. Unfortunately, no one has volunteered to coach his team. If we don’t get a coach soon, we will need to disband the team. We’re wondering if you’re interested in coaching?”
It was a fateful day in February 2009 when I received that call. I remember thinking before I answered the phone that maybe it was going to be my son’s actual coach, introducing him or herself and letting us know when practices would begin. Quite the opposite. Now I was forced to make a decision – take on the responsibilities of coaching my son’s elementary school rec team or risk my son not being able to play at all that season.
Time commitment wasn’t an issue as I was in-between jobs (a product at the time of the downturn in the economy). What made me most anxious about the prospect was the fact that I knew pretty much nothing about soccer. I had never played it myself, except for during tryouts when I was a tenth grader in high school (which didn’t go very well – perhaps that will be a good topic for another blog). I had never attended a soccer match or even watched one on TV.
I talked it over with my wife, who encouraged me by pointing out that most coaches for the elementary rec teams themselves had little to no knowledge or experience of what they were doing. Surely, I can be as good as the worst of those, right?
After pondering on the matter overnight, I contacted the rec league the next day and accepted the position. I met with the rec supervisor and acquired my players’ information. It was up to me to establish practice dates and times. This needed to be communicated with the players’ parents ASAP as most other teams had begun their practices the week before. Then I needed to put together the practices themselves, specifically, what we would do for an hour a day, two to three times a week, to get the boys ready for their first match which was set to occur in a week and a half.
Then it hit me: what have I gotten myself into? How do I figure out what to do at practices that are at once engaging, fun, and educational in relation to the sport? I had to speak and meet with the fearsome parents of the players…I had heard horror stories of difficult parents. What if my players’ parents are difficult? What if they call me out on not knowing what I’m doing?
I had a talk with my son, who was in the third grade, about this undertaking. Speaking with him put all my nerves at ease. After all, ultimately, he was the reason I was willing to take on the challenge. He was the one in my family who would be nurtured, would provide me with the smiles and thrills during practices and games. Of course, I would also have the satisfaction of working with a dozen or so boys his age who would be looking up to me and my guidance and leadership to teach them, in the best way I could, to be the best they could be. Their parents didn’t matter. My limited knowledge of soccer (which grew immensely over that season – thank you Internet!), didn’t matter.
It was for my own child.
And I’ve continued to be a soccer parent ever since. I subsequently coached my son’s team four years in a row – two of those years we took the league championship. My son has since moved on to middle school, so for the first time last school year, I was able to coach my daughter and her fourth grade team (where I quickly found out that coaching young girls was quite different than coaching young boys...yet another blog in the making!). That first year coaching with my daughter we took second in the league.
While the championships have been nice, winning them has never been the ultimate goal. Rather, it’s been the looks on my kids’ faces, the quality time spent together, and the mutual excitement and admiration for a game that my entire family has grown to love.
That is why I became a soccer parent.
~ E.S.Brown is an aspiring author whose debut novel is due in 2014. He divides his time between his day job, his family, his writing, and being a soccer parent.